Setting the record straight

Greg Moseley, Kirstenhof

While agreeing with some of the sentiments expressed by Dr Cramer in his letter (“An energy burst for the Karoo”, Constantiaberg Bulletin, April 5), I feel constrained to reply to some of the over-emotional viewpoints put forward in his letter.

I understand that Dr Cramer is a well-qualified geo-hydrologist, however, that manifestly does not qualify him to comment on matters pertaining to mining and exploration. Some of the “facts” that he puts forward are misinformation of a fairly radical type. (It should be noted that I am a mining exploration geologist with 50 years experience – some of it in uranium exploration in the Karoo – but no interest in Peninsula Energy at all).

The Australian company, Peninsula Energy, never had “more than 700 000 hectares of Karoo farmlands… earmarked for destructive uranium mining”. What they did have was that area under an exploration licence. An exploration licence is very far removed from a mining licence as considerable non-invasive work is required before the more serious drilling stage is even reached. Even if there are positive results, the style of uranium mineralisation in the Karoo, eg. Rystkuil, Rietkuil, means that any mining footprint will be very small.

Should it be an open-pittable deposit the excavation created might cover up to 20 hectares with a further few hectares for the concomitant infrastructure. An underground mine would have an even smaller footprint. A far cry from 700 000 hectares.

No, it wasn’t “too big a chunk for them to chew”. The reduction in area to “a mere 12% was probably a result of the non-invasive work mentioned above. Additionally, it was unfortunate for Peninsula that the well-known uranium mineralisation, particularly at Rystkuil, has been shown on a number of occasions to be uneconomic. That is particularly the case, as Dr Cramer mentions, when the uranium price is at an all-time low. Also, please note that it would be highly unusual for the”Ozzies” to own the land. It would be held under a mineral licence – not outright ownership. The “environmental mess” inherited by Peninsula, left behind (in the 1970s) by previous explorers is unfortunate, no doubt. But the scary language used by Dr Cramer does not help. It should be noted that various studies have shown that Paarl Rock is probably as radio-active as the waste dumps at Rystkuil. Maybe the residents of Paarl should be encouraged to move.

A further point. One of the main tools for mineral exploration is drilling and this can indeed have an adverse effect on the environment if it is not properly controlled. But then, as a matter of interest, how were all the water boreholes (the ubiquitous wind pumps) sunk. They were drilled. Additionally, the renewable energy projects so beloved of the environmental groups are at least equally destructive. I have seen plans for a wind farm between Sutherland and Laingsburg with in excess of 300 turbines mooted. Think of the road construction, the dust, the thousands of tonnes of concrete that would need to be transported… And the SKA project. How many antennae are required for that.